Mandarin Chinese: History, Grammar, and Speakers in The World

The Mandarin Chinese is the most vastly used form of Chinese, spoken and native to two-thirds of the population in China, or nearly a billion of people. It is also called the Northern Chinese because it is spoken north of the Yangtze River and in much of the rest of the country. The Mandarin Chinese is actually classified as a group of related varieties of Chinese spoken across most of northern and southwestern China. The group includes the Beijing dialect, the basis of Standard Mandarin or Standard Chinese. Many of these local Mandarin varieties are not mutually intelligible.

As the most vastly used form of Chinese, the Mandarin Chinese can be also found in many other countries in the world. In the United States, for example, there are 2,896,766 speaking Mandarin Chinese.

Forms of The Language

The Mandarin Chinese language is divided into subgroups by many linguists, due to its diversity and differences between dialects. Those subgroups are:

  • Northern Mandarin (Centers on Beijing and is spoken in Northern China and the Northeast provinces)
  • Northwestern Mandarin
  • Southwestern Mandarin
  • Southern, or Lower Yangtze, Mandarin

Mandarin Chinese in the form spoken in and around Beijing forms the basis for Modern Standard Chinese—Guoyu, “National Language,” usually called putonghua “common language” by the Chinese.

Written Mandarin

The history of the Chinese written word is more than 3000 years old. It is a kind of hieroglyphic which originated from carapace-bone-script in the Shang Dynasty (16th – 11th century BC). It then developed into different forms of calligraphic handwritings like large seal script, small seal script, official script, regular script, cursive script, and running script. The characters have two kinds – Simplified and Traditional. Simplified style is often used in mainland China, Singapore, and overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, while the latter is often accepted in Taiwan Province, Hong Kong, Macau and overseas Chinese communities in North America.

The Mandarin Chinese in writing is also used by the Han people and is a common language for the other minorities. Among all the 55 ethnic minorities, the people of Hui and Man nationalities also use Mandarin and its characters.

Facts about the Mandarin Chinese Language

  • Tones are used to differentiate words and Mandarin has four tones and an additional neutral tone.
  • There are Logograms which are written characters representing a word or a phrase. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 Chinese characters, however, the Chinese use about 2500 to 3000 in their daily lives.
  • Because of the tone used, a word in Mandarin Chinese can mean four different things due to the 4 different tones.
  • Up until 1955, the language was written in vertical columns, going from right to left.

ULS Services in Mandarin Chinese

At United Language Services we work with a wide array of certified professional translators and interpreters that have mastered the Mandarin Chinese language in all its forms. So if you need translation, interpretation, localization, or transcription of the language, please do not hesitate to contact us.